Rookie Corner 053 – Big Dave's Crossword Blog
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Rookie Corner 053

Double Crossing So and Sos by Silvanus

+ – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – +

The puzzle is available by clicking on the above grid.

On the first anniversary of Rookie Corner, Silvanus returns to entertain us.  As usual, the setter will be delighted to receive feedback from you, the solvers. I do ask that you remember that for most setters this is a new experience, so please only offer constructive criticism.

A review of this puzzle by Prolixic follows.

It falls to Silvanus to usher in the second year of the Rookie Corner with a suitable themed crossword (look at the top and bottom lines) of the crossword.  The double crossing so and sos refers to the fact that the word (setter) appears twice in the across clues, hidden in 23a and in the final three letter of 12a and the first three of 14a.  Beet (another Rookie setter) obviously has a fan club with 23a 24a too.

I thought that Silvanus might have produced the first Rookie crossword without any comments on the wordplay and clues but a pesky use of an adjective to clue a noun reared its head in 14a.


7 Show disapproval of piping on the side of black female garment (4,4)
BOOB TUBE – The noise made to show disapproval followed by another word for piping or a hollow cylinder all after (on the side of) the abbreviation for black.

9 It’s natural in a rowing crew, say (6)
INNATE – A homophone of IN EIGHT (rowing crew)

10 Low final turnout is debatable (4)
MOOT – Another word for low (as in the sound a cow makes) followed by the final letter of turnout.

11 Pa’s despair strangely vanishes (10)
DISAPPEARS – An anagram (strangely) of PA’S DESPAIR.

12 Pamper naughty escorts lacking resistance (6)
COSSET – An anagram (naughty) of ESCORTS after removing the R (lacking resistance).

14 It sounds frightening to hold down reptile (8)
TERRAPIN – A homophone (it sounds) of terror (frightening – I think frightening (an adjective) would be a synonym for terrifying not terror (a noun)) followed by a word meaning hold down (as in a wrestling move).

15 Assume to hand over keys first (6)
ACCEDE – Two notes or keys on the musical scale followed by a word meaning to hand over.

16 Filthy mongrel found in empty study (6)
SMUTTY – A four letter word for a mongrel inside the outer letters (empty) of study.

19 Sticky substance is a dreadful mess also (8)
MOLASSES – An anagram (dreadful) of MESS ALSO.

21 Soft food regurgitated with uneven delays (6)
CUDDLY – The food regurgitated by cows followed by the odd letters (uneven) of DeLaYs.

23 Quiet, outstanding compiler who’s ahead of the competition (10)
PACESETTER – The musical abbreviation for quiet followed by a three letter word meaning outstanding and another word for a compiler.

24 Root round by the sound of it (4)
BEET – A homophone (by the sound of it) of beat (a policeman’s round).

25 Young Stuart with whiskers! (6)
LITTLE – Double definition with a cryptic reference to the mouse in the film.

26 Plane losing oxygen would cause suffocation (8)
SMOOTHER – A reverse clue.  An O (abbreviation from oxygen) removed from the answer would give a word meaning cause suffocation.  Chambers gives the answer as a tool such as a plane.


1 Architectural style of an old clown following Russian Orthodox leaders (6)
ROCOCO – The name of an old clown goes after (following) the first letters (leaders) of Russian Orthodox.

2 Probity encompasses brief loss report (4)
OBIT – The answer is hidden by (encompasses) PROBITY.

3 External appointment note is obsolete (8)
OUTDATED – A three letter word meaning external followed by a word for a romantic appointment and a note of the musical scale.

4 Cut head off a smoked fish (6)
KIPPER – A word meaning cut or omit with the first letter removed (head off) followed by another word for “A” as in £5 a head.

5 Communicated with Bill and Ted after Milan club had opened (10)
INTERACTED – The name of a football club in Milan followed by an abbreviation for a bill or invoice and the TED from the clue.

6 For ages, ruined  Tintern had no ultimate plan in case of emergency (8)
ETERNITY – An anagram (ruined) of TINTERN (the name of a village with a ruined abbey) after removing the final N (the last letter or ultimate) in plan put inside the outer letters (case of) emergency.

8 For starters, employ regular steel alternative to zinc substitute (6)
ERSATZ – The initial letters (for starters) of the third to eighth words of the clue.

13 Solemn oath to old American city (10)
SACREMENTO – Another word for a solemn oath followed by the abbreviation for old.

15 A pointless dreamer is sweet-smelling (8)
AROMATIC – The A from the clue followed by a word for a dreamer with the N removed (pointless).

17 Biscuit for accountant wearing brownish red (8)
MACAROON – An abbreviation for a chartered accountant around which you add a word for brownish red.

18 In actuality return visit is almost concealed (2,2,2)
AS IT IS – The answer is hidden (concealed) and reversed (return) in VISIT IS ALMOST

20 Person searching diocese for busker without transport (6)
SEEKER – Another word for a diocese followed by the busker from the clue after a word for a type of transport has been removed.

22 23  broadcast German songs (6)
LIEDER – A homophone (broadcast) of leader (a synonym for the answer to 23a).

24 Scrap energy snack (4)
BITE – A word for a scrap or off-cut followed by the abbreviation for energy.

End of year review

Is it really a year since Axolotl was the first Rookie to make an appearance in Big Dave’s new venture?  Mondays have definitely been enlivened by the prospect of new setters offering their crosswords for solving and review.  The number of comments on the crosswords that appear each week is testimony to the popularity of the Rookie Corner.

Apart from clue writing competitions (particularly DIY COW run by Anax on his website), there is little opportunity for up and coming setters to publish crosswords and receive feedback on their clues.  The Rookie corner provides an invaluable outlet for tomorrow’s setters.  The Not The Saturday Prize Puzzle had introduced new setters – many of whom are now being published nationally – but all the crosswords there were test solved and checked by the editor before being published.  The Rookie Corner is the one place where you see the original crossword and get feedback on it.  It was encouraging that John Henderson (Elgar) publicised the existence of the Rookie Corner in his capacity as editor of the Inquisitor crossword series in the Independent, another testimony to the important role that the Rookie Corner plays.

We have already had some graduations from the Rookie Corner to the NTSPP and given the high standard of some of the current Rookies, I will not be long, I feel, before others move over to the Saturday puzzle.  Another encouraging effect of the Rookie Corner series is that the new setters are collaborating to test solve for each other, each striving for the holy grail of publishing a crossword that the grand inquisitor cannot find fault with!

I have had the privilege of reviewing most of the crosswords that have been published.  I am hopeful that the notes that I prepared in the early weeks of the Rookie Corner will eventually see the light of day on Big Dave’s website.

A big thank you to all of the setters who have entertained us and to Big Dave for the vision of providing this corner of the website for new setters to learn the ropes.

55 comments on “Rookie Corner 053

  1. A really well put together puzzle that we thoroughly enjoyed. What a delight to spot the Nina when we got to the end too.
    Many thanks Silvanus.

    1. We’ve just had another look at the puzzle and found the other cleverness that makes more sense of the title. Well done Silvanus.

      1. This puzzle was held back in order to celebrate a year of Rookie puzzles. Inadvertently this has been one of the most successful features of the website – probably because it has filled an obvious but overlooked gap in the Crosswordland cyberspace.

  2. Thought I might have got in first – waited for the midnight publication but you 2K’s still got there before me!
    Great stuff, Silvanus, thank you. Loved the Nina!
    Favs.list includes 10a & 2d but the honours go to 23a.
    ps. I’m still seeing double!

  3. Good clever stuff and very entertaining – thanks Silvanus. My favourites are the 23/24a combination.

  4. Well done Silvanus and thank you for a really enjoyable puzzle. Although I found it straightforward (except for putting in the wrong homophone for 22d initially, which then made 24a temporarily impossible), it was clever, well clued, and great fun.

  5. I imagine everyone can guess my favourite clue!

    Well done Silvanus on a really great puzzle to celebrate a year of Rookie Corner.

    A huge thank you to Big Dave for having the idea to create a place for us beginners to try our hands at setting, thanks to Prolixic for the detailed and thoughtful reviews that obviously take up a lot of time and are hugely helpful, and finally thanks to all the commenters who take the time to try a beginner puzzle and give feedback.

    1. I can do no better than echo wholeheartedly what Beet has said so well in her final paragraph.

      I believe that RC’s first anniversary fully deserves a celebration and I’m very grateful to Big Dave in allowing me the opportunity to do this.

      I should also like to thank as ever Beet (aka 24a) and Sprocker (couldn’t fit him in this time !) for their invaluable help in test-solving and smoothing out the rough edges, and for some excellent ideas which I had not previously considered.

      I shall formally thank everyone for their comments after the review tomorrow.

      1. Hi Silvanus,

        It was a pleasure as always to help out, and congratulations on the richly deserved positive feedback. Once I twigged (OK, once you had explained!) the theme, and I had spotted (OK, once you had pointed out!) the Nina, it was hard not to be very impressed, and I think this was therefore a perfect choice for the anniversary puzzle.

        Let me also take the opportunity to say a Big thank you to Big Dave for setting up Rookie Corner, and to Prolixic (and the occasional other reviewers) for all the efforts that go into the comprehensive reviews, and to all the commenters who take the time to give feedback.

  6. Very well done, Silvanus! Lots of fun and well clued. I, too, liked the 23/24 combo best among some stiff competition.

    Happy Anniversary to the Rookie Corner and thanks to BD for the brainwave and all the Rookies who make Mondays so enjoyable!

  7. Most enjoyable . Congratulations BD on the 1st anniversary and thank you Silvanus for the puzzle. I think my fav clue was 15d, simple yet clever .

  8. That was fun – love Rookie Corner on Mondays.
    Lots of really good clues and not too tricky either.
    My last answer was 26a – spent ages going the wrong way about it.
    Needless to say I missed the Nina – I always do.
    I don’t quite ‘get’ the answer I have for 4d – maybe it’s wrong.
    I liked 10 and 14a and 15d. My favourite (once I’d stopped trying to fit a ‘cur’ into it) was 16a.
    Thanks and congratulations again to Silvanus and Happy Birthday to Rookie Corner – long may it last.

    1. 4d – Either I am missing something … or maybe the clue is missing something?

      No-one else has mentioned it … so I presume it is me (& you).

      1. A word for someone in charge (head) with the first letter removed (cut off) gives you a smoked fish.

      2. It’s a verb to cut or leave out without its first letter followed by ‘a’ (as in 50p a pound).

        1. Like your style, Gazza, but didn’t even see that as a possibility. I wonder what Silvanus will have to say?

              1. Definitely, Chris – at least you got the right answer even if you reached it by a different route !

                1. Oh rats! Didn’t think you were going to say that Silvanus – I’d like to think you were just persuaded by Gazza’s more complex option but I guess that’s not likely to be the case.

        2. Ooops !!! :oops:

          I was thinking along the lines of “Cut head off a captain to obtain smoked fish.

          Wrong again! Expletive Deleted.. Oh! Dear!

          Thanks gazza and apologies to Silvanus for even suggesting that this fine puzzle contained a misprint!

    2. Thanks everyone – that’s sorted me out (and Franco).
      The moral here is, “Never doubt gazza”.

      1. Don’t I just know it, Kath. Think I should return to my usual fall-back position of ‘ask Gazza first’ before committing to any stance on the interpretation of a clue.

  9. I keep looking at the assortment of doubled letters and thinking that there must be an appropriate phrase that can be made from them. Many possibilities but keep falling at the final hurdle – anyone else able to come up with something?

    1. Further to this – and subsequent revelations that Gazza was right as usual……….maybe he’s the man to come up with the relevant phrase?

  10. That was good fun.
    Last one in was 7a and I am still not sure if I am right. Only shows as a synonym of TV in my book. Unless it is slang for a brassiere.
    Didn’t realise the German plural ending was such in 22d. Mind you apart from ich liebe dich, I know nothing about that language.
    Got the Nina for a change.
    Thanks to Silvanus. The clues are definitely 26a on this one.

    1. Hi Jean-luc,

      I managed to ascertain from Mr. Google that the German word for song is ‘leide’ – remembered ‘lederhosen’ from somewhere and managed to cobble together an answer despite being unsure how to pronounce either word.

      The ‘experts’ must despair of me and my ilk!

        1. Oh rats again – meant to put ‘lied’ but got caught up with the sound bite. BD will probably accept the faux pas with a raising of the eyebrows – think that’s his default position where a great many of my posts are concerned.

        2. Maybe there is a dyslexic version of Google. We should all download it to be on the same par.

          1. Ouch, Jean-luc. I am really, really wounded.

            On the upside, at least I know which side of the road to drive on and didn’t have to get my car suitably adapted to cope with my dyslexia in that area.

            1. I really didn’t mean to offend you. I’m all for spelling the way the words are pronounced. Homophones are often my favourite clues.

              1. No serious offence taken, JL.
                As for spelling things the way they’re pronounced – I have a HUGE problem with that. Mostly down to my school years – If I’ve had to get my brain to accept that a particular spelling is pronounced the way it is, then the rest of you can jolly well learn it too!
                Sadly, never did learn German, so I was far too concerned with the ‘sense’ of the 22d question. I reckon that could well be the foible that some of our setters prey upon.

  11. Thank you , Silvanus, I enjoyed that. Not too hard, and I can’t pick any particular favourite, just generally very smooth and professional.

  12. Congratulations, happy anniversary wishes and sincere thanks to you BD for Rookie Corner.

    You have `made all the difference` for some dear people.

    Going to Cambridge?


  13. Although he is probably too chivalrous to say so, I don’t think Silvanus intended 23a to refer to me, just coincidence those two clues are together.

    1. That may be so, Beet, but as far as I am concerned you are the pace setter for the Rookies.

      I hope you don’t mind me saying that, Silvanus – as you’ll see below I have some nice things to say about you too!

      1. Hi Kitty,

        As you’ll see from my comment below, I think Beet is fully deserving of such an accolade :-)

  14. I thought the ‘double crossing’ referred to the fact that each of the across answers contains a double letter.

    1. So did we Gazza. We were just about to make a comment on that when we noticed your one.

  15. Many thanks to Prolixic for his review – I can’t quite believe how agonisingly close I came to achieving the Rookie Holy Grail of having no technical flaws, that pesky adjectival homophone indeed !

    To have reached this exalted level in just three steps following my fairly ropey and experimental debut puzzle back in January has surprised even me, but my challenge now is to maintain the standard going forward. With future puzzles I shall endeavour to crank up the degree of difficulty by a notch or two, so I’ll be interested to receive eventual feedback as to whether I’ve been successful in this or not.

    It must be the good fortune of the anniversary setter’s slot which has unwittingly led to two factors combining to make my puzzle appear better conceived than it actually was ! Honest chap that I am, although it was certainly my intention for 24a to refer to my collaborator, I have to come clean and say that the juxtaposition of 23a was purely coincidental. However, “if the cap fits” (which it does most deservedly), I’m more than happy that this has been interpreted as it has.

    Secondly, the title of the puzzle does indeed refer to the fact that each of the Across (crossing) clues contains either a double vowel or a double consonant, as Gazza and others had correctly identified. Once again, it was pure coincidence that the final three letters of 12a and the first three letters of 14a spelt “Setter”, but well done to Prolixic for spotting this – did anyone else I wonder ?!

    Thanks also to Prolixic for his End of Year Review – I had no idea that Elgar had publicised RC – and of course to all those taking the trouble to leave comments this time around. It’s always good to see the usual loyal band of “regulars” but equally gratifying to see some new names (to me) making an appearance. Thank you all very much indeed.

  16. I thought this puzzle excellent and was delighted to find the nina! I marked off no less than ten clues I especially liked! Of these, I think 23a was my fave.

    Am I the only one who managed to get two answers wrong? I didn’t get 24a. I couldn’t think of the homophone (even more For 25a, my answer was ‘kittle’. Never having seen the film I didn’t know about the mouse. Thus I took ‘Stuart’ to indicate the answer was Scots for something ‘young’ with ‘whiskers’, i.e. a ‘kittle’. Oh dear. My only other problem was 4d, where I had the right answer but the wrong parsing. I regret I have not done full justice to your almost flaw-free puzzle, Silvanus.

    Very well done indeed, Silvanus, and many thanks for the very entertaining crossword. Very big thanks too, to Prolixic, and I look forward very much to when your ‘notes see light of day on Big Dave’s website’.

    Best congratulations to Big Dave, Prolixic, the Rookies, and to all who make this Corner the best place to visit for a Monday puzzle. What a successful venture the Rookie Corner has proved to be!

  17. I enjoyed this, and could do most of it, so it must have been pretty easy, as I’m garbage at solving crosswords. I’m trying to learn from other people’s mistakes as well as my own for setting, and this was no use as it was nearly perfect! One things I noticed was that the sentences were very smooth. After comments on my effort, I’ve been trying to rewrite clues that had verbs to define nouns, and find I have to use a lot of dashes or other punctuation that ruins the flow of the clue, but you have avoided that beautifully.
    I have one question though – in 10a final turnout is used to indicate t. Is this fine? I was reading that it shouldn’t be allowed as it isn’t grammatically correct (in a wordplay sense – I think??), but maybe that is too strict for most people?
    Thanks Silvanus!

    1. Many thanks, Snape.

      I’m sure that the smoothness of your surface readings will improve considerably with practice, as the more puzzles I’ve attempted the less clunky the surfaces seem to have become.

      I’m not sure where you read that the device I used in 10a is not allowed, as similar constructions are a staple diet of cryptic puzzles and I’ve never seen any queried or rejected before.

    2. You’re right, Snape. A construct such as first turnout or final turnout to clue T is frowned upon by some. This is how Prolixic explained it in his review of Rookie Corner 022:
      The strict view is that, for example, to clue the first letter of the word, you should use a construction such as start of X or X starts. Clues such as “first person”, “start panting”, “begin painting” or “leading parliamentarians” would not be allowed to clue the letter P as grammatically these do not indicate the initial letter of the word even if they give the sense of the first letter. Similarly middle man would not be allowed to clue A as the central letter of man. Other setters and solvers would be happy to accept the less grammatical constructions.

  18. Just finished the cryptic and came back here to look at the review. Have to say that, of the two puzzles, I found this one far more entertaining.
    Made a couple of slips with the parsing – 4d has already been discussed but with 24a I went for ‘beat’ as in what a beater on a shoot would do and then a ‘beet’ as in a round root vegetable. Wrong, but it worked for me.
    Relieved to discover that at least I got the ‘double crossing’ correct!

    Surely can’t be long before you graduate, Silvanus! Many thanks both to you and to Prolixic, who continues to do a sterling job on behalf of our Rookies.

  19. This was most enjoyable and nice and gentle too – thanks, Silvanus. I saw the nina, which helped further, but I forgot to work out the double crossing bit. Very clever! Like others I was confused by 4d, because yet again I forgot about a = per. I also needed Gazza in order to twig Stuart Little.

    What a shame the little terror in 14a prevented you from avoiding the blue pencil completely, Silvanus. I didn’t notice it during the solve. Still, very well done indeed on a very polished anniversary crossword.

    I liked lots, including 10a, 23a, 24a and 20d. My favourite? 16a.

    Many congrats to all the Rookies, and to BD for the success of this wonderful corner.

    Thanks also to Prolixic for all the good work providing such interesting and informative reviews. I missed adding my condolences last week – I hope you will accept them belatedly now.

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